Jan Blommaert (Tilburg University, The Netherlands)
Ana Deumert (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Of Language and Revolution –
Disruptions and Ruptures in the (Social) Histories of Language
The discipline of sociolinguistics has made important contributions to our understanding of the process of language change as gradual (Weinreich, Labov and Herzog 1868). Linguistic changes – especially phonetic/phonological changes – have been shown to be grounded in relationships of more-or-less, with frequencies shifting incrementally across time (and across social groups). Another important concern of historical linguists has been to understand the limits or constraints of language change; that is, the changes that are not supposed to happen (either because they violate the workings of the system, or because they violate human cognition). Work on language contact has issued challenges to both models: (i) in contact scenarios language change can be abrupt and sudden, and (ii) nothing is impossible (Thomason 2000). Another area of research which has challenged previously held ideas about language change are (socio-)linguistic studies of digital media practices. Indeed, David Crystal (2004) suggests that a ‘language revolution’ has taken place in the late twentieth century, and that we are facing “a linguistic future which is radically different from the past”. Being wary of the type of ‘presentism’ that underpins Crystal’s argument of a radical difference between past and present, I will explore the role played by disruption and rupture in language change across space and time, and ask the question under what conditions language change is indeed revolutionary (i.e. rapid and overturning existing orders/systems).
Ana Deumert is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Cape Town. Her research program is located within the broad field of sociolinguistics and has a strong transdisciplinary focus. She has worked on the history of Afrikaans, co-authored textbooks in sociolinguistics (Introducing Sociolinguistics, 2009; Dictionary of Sociolinguistics, 2004), and published on mobile communication (Sociolinguistics and Mobile Communication, 2014). In addition, she co-edited of Germanic Standardizations – Past and Present (2004), Structure and Variation in Language Contact (2006), and The Sociolinguistics of Everyday Creativity (2018). She is a recipient of the Neville Alexander Award for the Promotion of Multilingualism (2014) and the Humboldt Research Award (2016). In addition to publishing widely on a range of topics in sociolinguistics, she is a regular columnist for diggit magazine .
Jeanine Treffers-Daller (University of Reading, UK)
Code-switching and the “bend-it-like-Beckham-principle”: on creativity in language contact
One of the great puzzles in the field of bilingualism is how bilinguals manage to keep their languages separate in some conversations, whilst they can also freely switch between languages in other conversations. This switching between languages can happen even within one sentence, as in (1), where a Turkish-German bilingual combines grammar rules and words from each language in one sentence.
(1) an dem Tag wo Klassenfahrt‘agid-ecek-ti-m,
on the-Dat. day where school trip-Dat. go-Fut.-Past-1.sg
akşam-a konnt’ keine Fete machen
evening-Dat. could no party make (Treffers-Daller, in press)
‘On the day that I was going to the school trip I could not have a party until the
It is very surprising that bilinguals can create sentences in which grammar rules from two languages meet, particularly when the grammars of two languages are so different from each other as is the case with German and Turkish. While there is an extensive body of research which has tried to formulate where switching is (im)possible in a sentence, there are counter examples to most theories. The most parsimonious theory is offered by Mahootian (1993) and MacSwan (1999), who advocate a constraint-free approach and suggest that nothing constrains code-switching apart from the requirements of the mixed grammars. However, this null theory does not do justice to the creativity of bilinguals, who can be found to “bend the grammar rules” to suit their needs, as is the case in (1), where a Turkish verb form which generally appears in main clauses is used in a relative clause in which German and Turkish words are mixed. In other words, bilinguals make novel combinations which challenge existing patterns and monolingual norms. When these contact patterns spread through a bilingual speech community they can result in contact-induced language change. Thus, in the paper I hope to show that creativity, bending the rules and challenging monolingual norms is, in fact, at the heart of code-switching behaviour. I will illustrate the “bend-it-like-Beckham principle” with code-switching examples from a wide variety of language pairs.
Jeanine Treffers-Daller is Professor of Mulitlingualism at the Univeristy of Reading, Uk. She has published widely on the measuremnete of language dominance in bilinguals and second language learners an on code-switching, borrowing and other language contact phenomena. She is a member of the Editoral Board of the International Journal of Bilingualism an of Bilingualism, Language and Cognition.
Debra Ziegeler (Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3)
Contact grammaticalisation in Singapore in the 21st century
Grammaticalisation in a contact situation has been described in previous studies in as a form of ‘Replica grammaticalisation’ (Heine and Kuteva 2003, 2005) in which a grammaticalisation pathway in a model language (M) is followed, stage by stage, in a replica language (R), to produce the same functional requirements found in the model language, but using lexical material from the replica language. Other situations refer to the adoption of lexical material from R to reproduce M-language functions almost instantaneously, without the R language following through the diachronic steps that are apparent in the M language (what Heine and Kuteva label ‘Ordinary contact-induced grammaticalisation’). Another main difference between the two processes is that in Ordinary contact-induced grammaticalisation the strategies employed by the M language are found almost ubiquitously across languages and can be considered cross-linguistically universal.
The former process of Replica grammaticalisation has been criticised for its inability to explain how speakers of R may consciously reproduce historical stages known to have taken place in the history of the M language (Matthews & Yip 2009; Gast & van der Auwera 2012). On the other hand, later studies such as Michaelis & Haspelmath (2020, to appear), dispense with the term ‘Ordinary contact-induced grammaticalisation’ altogether, preferring to describe such processes as ‘constructional re-creation’ or ‘constructional calquing’, and ‘re-creative grammaticalisation’, and discussing the absence of a stage-by-stage pathway as due to the faster time periods in which creoles and other contact languages are created.
In the case of Singapore English, a diglossic variety with a High (standard) sub-variety has been in continuous contact with the Low (Colloquial Singapore English, or Singlish) at least since the introduction of mass English-medium education in the 1960s (see, e.g., Gupta 1991), and it may therefore be questioned exactly how much contact competition now exists between substrate influences and those of the co-existing, standard lexifier. Michaelis (2017) demonstrates that in creoles, tense, aspect and mood categories are modelled on the substrate languages, while only word order appears to be modelled on the lexifier. It cannot be argued that Standard Singapore English exerts no influence whatsoever on Singlish, nor that the substrate languages, which are fast disappearing from everyday use due to local language policy, are as influential as they were in the earlier, post-colonial era. The present paper looks at a number of features of tense, aspect and modality in Singlish, and reconsiders the ways in which the substrate languages and the standard sub-variety both interact to influence present-day Singlish in determining which languages are the Model languages for grammaticalisation. Convergence to the standard is also seen as becoming increasingly conspicuous.
Phd: Monash University, Melbourne, Australia 1997, published as Hypothetical Modality. Grammaticalisation in an L2 Dialect (2000), Benjamins); Habilitation: University Paris 7, 2012. Currently Professor of English Linguistics at the Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle, Paris, I have also worked in Taiwan (National Tsing Hua University), the University of Manchester, and the National University of Singapore. I have been researching in Singapore English since my Phd, alternatively with studies on grammaticalisation in the history of English, hence the second book (2006, Benjamins): Interfaces with English Aspect. Diachronic and Empirical Studies. My third monograph, Converging Grammars. Constructions in Singapore English (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter), looks at the contradictions arising from the application of construction grammar theory to contact situations, and proposes the hypothesis of ‘merger constructions’. I have also co-edited (with Bao Zhiming): Negation and Contact. With Special Focus on Singapore English (2017, Benjamins), a collection of papers dealing mainly with the expression of negation in contact languages.